“Cats are very opinionated about food, and many of their food preferences are formed in the first year,” says Julie A. Churchill, DVM, PhD, associate professor of nutrition at the University of Minnesota College of Veterinary Medicine. in St.Paul So if your cat is a kitten, now is the time to get them used to different types of food, wet, dry and semi-dry.
But even if your pet is older, there are still ways to make sure they're getting all the nutrients they need to be healthy. Start by learning more about what you're buying and what your cat needs.
Choose Balanced Foods
All cat owners should know how to read a cat food label, says Richard Hill, PhD, associate professor at the University of Florida College of Veterinary Medicine in Gainesville.
"With so much publicity, people tend to focus on the ingredients, but the nutrients are more important, namely proteins and fats," he says.
It's trendy to slather grains and carbs into pet foods, but those aren't necessarily bad, says Churchill. In addition, food made only of proteins and fats becomes expensive. “Carbohydrates can be invaluable for holding dry food together and making food more affordable, and many cats love that crunch. As long as the carbs are in an amount that cats can handle, that's OK.”
How do you know if your cat's food is balanced? Look for a statement from the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) on the package.
"This will say the food is complete and balanced, either through a feeding trial or because the recipe meets the nutritional needs of cats," says Hill. provide your cat with extra vitamins or supplements the food has everything they need.
How much, how many times?
Most cats will eat their main meals at dawn and dusk, when they would normally hunt and catch prey in the wild, so these are often the best times to feed them.
How much your cat should get in her bowl depends on her age, size, and activity, but the average is around 200 calories per day. It's a good idea to ask your veterinary team to help you calculate your cat's needs. Pay attention to the calorie count on any food you feed your cat, says Churchill. “The number of calories can vary greatly from food to food.”
Cats will also nibble during the day if you leave food out, but be aware that they are not good judges of how much they should eat.
"Overeating is an epidemic," says Churchill. When cats gain too much weight, they can have problems like joint disease, heart disease and diabetes.
Vets say it's best to feed cats at specific meal times and put food away at all other times.
If your cat is more of a chowhound than a finicky feline, switching to a lower-calorie food might be more helpful than reducing the amount, Hill says. “The problem with restricting food is that it can lead to mean cats.”
This topic deals with? It's fine to take them out once in a while, but don't overdo it. They shouldn't exceed 5% to 10% of your cat's daily calories.
Vegetarian Cats? Food House?
Vegetarians or vegans might be a healthy choice for you, but they're a bad idea for your cat. Unlike dogs and humans, cats need specific vitamins, minerals and proteins that only come from meat.
But not raw meat. It may be part of life for big cats in the wild, but it's not natural for house cats, Hill says. “In the wild, they will eat the whole animal or bird they catch, not just the meat. Meat alone will be deficient in vitamins, minerals and amino acids.”
Additionally, bacteria found on raw meat, such as salmonella and E. coli, can make your cat (and you) very sick.
What about making your own cat food at home? Churchill says if you decide to go this route, you shouldn't do it alone. "I strongly recommend that you seek help from a veterinary nutritionist. Cats do not are only 8 to 10 pounds, and changing one ingredient can change the whole nutritional value of the feed.”
Generally, most experts say commercial cat food is the way to go.
“The beauty of commercial food is that it's formulated specifically for cats, so it's complete and balanced and meets their needs, and you don't have to worry about that,” Churchill says.